Philosophy of Science

UNIVERSITÀ DELLA SVIZZERA ITALIANA
A Mendrisio (Svizzera)

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  • Mendrisio (Svizzera)
Descrizione

Descrizione Philosophy of Science I
Prof. Peter Seele As a starting point, human self-reflection is understood as precondition to the emergence of science. Pre-classing thinker and sophist Protagoras can be seen as a foundation father when stating: "Man is the measure of all things; of what is, that it is; of what is not, that it is not". Based on the ability to think about thinking and to reflect upon different approaches the course turns towards classical antiquity and here most of all to Aristotle and his distinction of Episteme, Techne and Doxa; terms used in different concepts until today. The concept of science was further developed by scholastic teachers, out of which William von Ockham contributed the principle of simple and economic science known as Ockham’s razor. Another philosophical milestone in the development of science and the scientific method can be seen in Descartes foundation of ‘rationalism’ based on ‘methodological skepticism’, which he developed in his “Discourse on the Method”. As Descartes was thinking of a principal method based on reason, Thomas Kuhn in the last century arrived at the sequential notion of scientific revolutions. Following Kuhn science happens in paradigms and a paradigm shift is characterized by the incommensurability of the old and the new paradigm. This approach explains why different scientific findings are perceived as ‘right’ or ‘valid’ although they are in logical opposition to the previous and/or the following paradigm. Furthermore and also in the last century, Karl Popper introduced the idea of falsification and the value of failing theories in the context of deduction and induction as means to arrive at scientific conclusions. Based on the different philosophical viewpoints and core questions of philosophy of science, the course opens space for discussion about the responsibility of science in general and the scientist in particular. This question also imposes the question of communication in science and between scientists. As background for group discussion we look at one of the most controversial debates in the last decades: “In the Shadow of the Bomb: Oppenheimer, Bethe, and the Moral Responsibility of the Scientist”. This question of responsibility is also discussed in the light of ongoing PhD projects of the participants (here students are required to write an essay).

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Descrizione

Philosophy of Science I
Prof. Peter Seele

As a starting point, human self-reflection is understood as precondition to the emergence of science. Pre-classing thinker and sophist Protagoras can be seen as a foundation father when stating: "Man is the measure of all things; of what is, that it is; of what is not, that it is not". Based on the ability to think about thinking and to reflect upon different approaches the course turns towards classical antiquity and here most of all to Aristotle and his distinction of Episteme, Techne and Doxa; terms used in different concepts until today. The concept of science was further developed by scholastic teachers, out of which William von Ockham contributed the principle of simple and economic science known as Ockham’s razor. Another philosophical milestone in the development of science and the scientific method can be seen in Descartes foundation of ‘rationalism’ based on ‘methodological skepticism’, which he developed in his “Discourse on the Method”. As Descartes was thinking of a principal method based on reason, Thomas Kuhn in the last century arrived at the sequential notion of scientific revolutions. Following Kuhn science happens in paradigms and a paradigm shift is characterized by the incommensurability of the old and the new paradigm. This approach explains why different scientific findings are perceived as ‘right’ or ‘valid’ although they are in logical opposition to the previous and/or the following paradigm. Furthermore and also in the last century, Karl Popper introduced the idea of falsification and the value of failing theories in the context of deduction and induction as means to arrive at scientific conclusions. Based on the different philosophical viewpoints and core questions of philosophy of science, the course opens space for discussion about the responsibility of science in general and the scientist in particular. This question also imposes the question of communication in science and between scientists. As background for group discussion we look at one of the most controversial debates in the last decades: “In the Shadow of the Bomb: Oppenheimer, Bethe, and the Moral Responsibility of the Scientist”. This question of responsibility is also discussed in the light of ongoing PhD projects of the participants (here students are required to write an essay).

Lastly we look at what is known as ‘positivistic turn’. Here Ludwig Wittgenstein’s contribution about the ability to “think what cannot be thought” can be seen as ongoing yet also controversial invitation to focus on a positivistic paradigm. Wittgenstein’s postulation to remain ‘silent’ on what cannot be said clearly opens debate about the role of communication as medium of science.

Successful students will receive 1.5 ECTS for Philosophy of Science I.

Readings part I

  • Aristotele: Nicomachean Ethics
  • Ockham, W. Summa logicae
  • Descartes, R. Discourse on the Method for Rightly Directing One’s Reason and Searching for Truth in the Sciences
  • Kuhn, T.S. (1970), The nature and necessity of scientific revolution, The Structure of Scientific Revolution,
  • Schweber, Silvan (2006): In the Shadow of the Bomb: Oppenheimer, Bethe, and the Moral Responsibility of the Scientist. Princeton University Press
  • Wittenstein; Ludwig (1918), Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus
  • Okasha, S. (2002), Philosophy of Science, Chapter 1: What is Science, Oxford University Press
  • Feynman, R.P. (1998), The Meaning of It All, The Uncertainty of Science, 1-28
  • Schurz, G. (2013): Philosophy of Science: A unified approach. Routledge. 16-37

Philosophy of Science II
Peter J. Schulz

This course aims to provide an introduction to a number of different quantitative research methods that are prominent in the social sciences. It begins by outlining systematic topics in the field of philosophy of science such as explanation, causation, and laws. We then will examine the conceptual foundations of quantitative research methods. We will particularly discuss exploratory data analysis, meta-analysis, statistical significance testing, exploratory factor analysis, and causal modeling. These methods are particularly useful to either detect empirical phenomenon or to construct explanatory theories.

Students are expected to do the assigned reading and to attend all class sessions. Prior to each class session each student should submit a one-paragraph comment or question to three of the readings. These may either seek clarification about or raise objections to major points in the reading. The contributions should reflect an effort to understand the assigned material and should provide the context for the issue raised. In a final paper (this should be in the range of 1,200 to 1,800 words and will be based largely on the material we are covering in class) students will create their own arguments to provide a clear and consistent defense of their views on a main topic in the field of philosophy of science. Students will receive 1.5 ECTS.

Readings

Godfrey-Smith, Peter (2003). Logic Plus Empiricism. In: Godfrey-Smith (Ed.), Theory and Reality. An Introduction to the Philosophy of Science. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 19-56.

Godfrey-Smith, P. (2003). Kuhn and Normal Science. In: Godfrey-Smith, Theory and Reality. An Introduction to the Philosophy of Science. Chicago & London: Chicago University Press, pp. 75-86.

Popper, K. (1962). Science: Conjectures and refutations. In K. Popper, Conjectures and refutations: The growth of scientific Knowledge. New York: Basic Books, pp. 33-65.

Hempel, C. G. (1966). Scientific Inquiry: Invention and Test. In: Hempel: Philosophy of Natural Science. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, pp. 3-18.

Carl G. Hempel: Two Basic Types of Scientific Explanation. From “Explanation in Science and History,” in: R.G. Colodny (1962). Frontiers of Science and Philosophy, London & Pittsburgh: Allen and Unwin and University of Pittsburgh Press, pp. 9-19, 32.

Kaplan, A. (2004). Explanation. In: A. Kaplan, The Conduct of Inquiry. Methodology for Behavioral Science. New Brunswick & London: Transaction Publishers, pp. 327-369.

Haig, Brian D. (2014). The Philosophy of Quantitative Methods. In: T. Little (Eds), The Oxford Handbook of Quantitative Methods. Vol 1: Foundations, pp. 7-31.

Bunge, M. (1961). Causality, chance, and law. American Scientist, 69, 432-488.

Pavitt, C. (2010). Alternative Approaches to Theorizing in Communication Science. Berger (ed.), Handbook of Communication Science.


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